New allegations of sexual misconduct flood the news nearly every day. Women are coming forward about a boss or a co-worker who made inappropriate comments to them, groped them, harassed them or assaulted them.
What started out as a hashtag on Twitter, #MeToo, has turned into a campaign to raise awareness of sexual assault and harassment, which knows no political boundaries or economic status. According to a story on the USA Today website, the list of men who have allegedly been accused of sexual assault is growing daily. The list includes Ben Affleck, President George H.W. Bush, Louis C.K., Al Franken, Mark Halperin, Roy Moore, President Donald Trump, and Matt Lauer, to name a few.
It appears some men in nearly every field, business and governmental institution, take advantage of their roles and power to prey on female co-workers. For decades, women put up with the incidents in silence, fearing they had no choice. After all, if they told someone, they would be blamed and nothing would be done about the harassment. Some women who did complain were ignored or told to “be quiet and get back to work.” Instead of being helped, they were shamed.
While we must diligently remember that in a court of law the men accused in the news lately are innocent until proven guilty, we must not disregard the women’s allegations.
Some people may profess they don’t believe the women or that other women are “jumping on the bandwagon” for some sort of “claim to fame.” We caution people not to drift in those directions. These are reasons why, in the past, women did not come forward. They feared they would not be believed; and that telling what happened to them would do more harm to them, their families or their careers. Silence appeared to be their only option.
Years ago, members of our editorial board were victims of workplace harassment. To be a victim and realize reporting the harasser will not bring results is disheartening, so like many women back then, being silent and not speaking up was the most logical decision. And, like NPR reported on its website: for so long, women have been dismissed as emotional, irrational and flighty. Women were told perhaps they misunderstood the situation, that they shouldn’t make a big deal about it, or that their dress was too short or revealing and they shouldn’t have worn it to work.
We are fortunate our employer today, Lee Enterprises, does not tolerate harassment. Our company has a formal policy outlining what we, as employees, should do if someone reports being harassed or if we observe harassing behavior.
Whether we are a friend, a family member, a co-worker or a manager, we need to listen if someone tells us she – or he – is a victim of harassment.
Of course, some men and women may come forward for nefarious reasons, like the woman who went to the Washington Post and claimed back in the 1990s that she had a sexual relationship with Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore. She told the Washington Post that Moore got her pregnant when she was 15 years old and that she had an abortion.
According to the Washington Post’s website, the woman appears to be part of a group called Project Veritas, an organization that allegedly tried to entrap the paper “into publishing a false story” about Moore, “with the obvious intention of using that to discredit the well-documented allegations that Moore preyed on teenage girls when he was in his 30s.”
Schemes like this harm the real victims. Project Veritas appears to have taken a damaging and personal situation and tried to turn it into a form of political attack.
What many people may not understand is that reporters are inherently skeptical. Reputable newspapers and news agencies never take one person at his or her word. Reporters use multiple sources to validate claims.
In this case, Washington Post reporters spent two weeks interviewing the woman. They found inconsistencies in her story and confronted her. They also discovered a post on the Internet that raised doubts about her motivations. When confronted, “she insisted that she was not working with any organization that targets journalists,” the WP reported.
Yet, the woman was seen walking into Project Veritas’ New York offices. According to the WP, Project Veritas is “an organization that targets the mainstream news media and left-leaning groups.”
So, what do we do about the men or women accused? Should the individual businesses, places of employment or social groups decide the best courses of action for them? What happens when the accusers are people in positions of power?
Sometimes, help from the media is the only recourse. While we don’t have the answers, it is up to us to figure out what to do in our lives to ensure this treatment ends.
Women who have been victimized carry the memories of what happened to them like a burden that, unknowingly or not, affects everything they do. People need to understand this type of behavior is a big reason why women have held back – or choose to continue holding back.
Dr. Ruggiero-Wallis, on the katv.com website says although sexual harassment should be reported immediately, complaints are regularly dismissed in male-dominated industries.
Women need more empathy in the workplace. And, we need more women in management and senior management levels.
It truly is time for the “old boys club” to end.